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Covid: Scotland preparing for ‘potential tsunami’ of Omicron variant infections says Nicola Sturgeon

Scotland is facing a “potential tsunami” of Omicron cases, with the variant likely to replace Delta as the dominant form of Covid-19 within days, Nicola Sturgeon has warned.

From tomorrow, all household contacts of any Covid cases should isolate for 10 days, the first minister said at a briefing on Friday afternoon.

Previously, anyone double vaccinated did not need to isolate if they had a negative PCR test, even if someone in their household tested positive.

Non-household contacts can still leave isolation if they have had a negative PCR test and have had two vaccine doses.

The nation is facing the “potential tsunami” of infections, as the Omicron variant spreads north of the border.

Ms Sturgeon said “she wanted to level with the public” and tell people what the government knows about the spread of the variant in Scotland.

She described the variant as “a new and very severe challenge” and noted that Omicron’s growth is rising exponentially – “doubling on a very, very rapid basis”.

Severity of symptoms unknown

It is unknown if Omicron symptoms are less or more severe than the other variants, said Ms Sturgeon.

However, if it has a high infection rate, even a small proportion of a very large number “will put a huge strain” on the NHS, she added.

She said that Omicron is an “immensely concerning development” for Scotland, the UK and the rest of the world.

The Scottish Government will be considering its new measures very carefully, and any changes will be considered on a four-nation basis.

The first minister said Holyrood will need to consider looking to the UK Treasury for funding to offset any economic damage.

‘We can’t rule out further methods’

Ms Sturgeon noted there has already been an effect on the economy – with 60 ScotRail cancellations blamed mainly on Omicron-related staff shortages.

The number of cases of the variant will overtake Delta within days, as early as next week, Ms Sturgeon said.

Scotland’s national public health body is “strongly urging” people to cancel Christmas parties as a result.

One Scottish hospitality business said it had already received more than 900 cancellations as a result of the new guidance.

Dr Nick Phin, the director of public health science and medical director at Public Health Scotland (PHS), said: “There is much that we still need to learn about Omicron, but early evidence suggests that this new Covid variant is much more transmissible. The impact of this transmissibility has been seen in recent weeks, with a number of Omicron outbreaks linked to parties.

“We still need to learn more about the severity of disease caused by Omicron and the effectiveness of vaccines, but there are important things that we can do to help protect ourselves and our families now. To help minimise the further spread of Covid-19, and Omicron in particular, I would strongly urge people to defer their Christmas parties to another time.”

She said it is now “virtually certain” Scotland will see a surge in coronavirus cases.

People should check travel details for any changes to ‘red list’ status for other nations.

People arriving from a ‘red list’ country must quarantine at a government-approved hotel for 10 days on arrival into the UK.

Latest Covid figures

There are 5,018 new positive cases of Covid in Scotland, which is 9.3% of all tests carried out.

This is a sharp rise on the average of about 2,800 cases per day reported recently.

There are 573 people in hospital, five fewer than yesterday. Of these, 40 people are receiving intensive care – one more than yesterday.

Nineteen more deaths have been reported.

Covid Scotland: When should you take lateral flow test as Omicron variant surges?